Sunday, May 31, 2020

Equal Rights and Justice

George Floyd. Ahmed Arbery. Eric Garner. Breona Taylor. Amadou Diallo. Freddie Gray. Philando Castile. Alton Sterling. Johnny Gammage. 

If you want to know how little things have changed in this country, Johnny Gammage was killed on October 12, 1995 for the horrendous crime of driving home. In the pre-cell phone camera age we may have never known about it and the cops might have walked but it just so happened Johnny's cousin played for the Steelers and so the case got the publicity it deserved. The public got to hear that a man was killed because of the color of his skin and the car he was driving. He was killed by white men in uniform who have no idea what the words protect and serve mean. Nothing's fucking changed. And i'm pissed. 

Black Lives Matter. The right wing media can go fuck themselves. They use their propaganda machine to distort and distract from the fact that far too many people of color and particularly black males, die by the hands of police. 400 years of slavery, oppression and systemic racism. And those fine white folks watching Fox News and it's merry band of racists wonder why people are angry? wonder why buildings are being destroyed and bottles being thrown. It speaks to the level of lily-white America's ignorance or complicity in the matter. Chris Hedges has said it best and most direct. America was built on two things, slavery and genocide. The history books lie. The truth is often ugly and brutal and those who write, as the oppressors/winners of the battles, tend not to like to sully their victory lap with little snippets like, "well first we had to eradicate all the indigenous people and once that was accomplished we needed cheap/free labor so we raided another continent so we could build our economy." Sadly that sentence could apply to 1776 or 2016. The choice is now yours, mine, ours. Silence is complicity, silence means you don't care about human rights, silence is siding with a country slowly sliding toward totalitarianism. I refuse to be silent.

If you stumble across this page and read it i'd like you to do me a favor. Say the name of every person at the top of this page. Find out who they were, the people who were left behind, the senseless reasons they are no longer alive. Each one was deprived of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Each one was deprived of those things by people whose motto is "Protect and Serve". Of course a lot of times the ones with that patch on their shirts tend to pick and choose who they protect and serve while ignoring or harassing the ones they don't. "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery/only ourselves can free our mind." Those are the words of one Robert Nesta Marley and while i'm taking them out of context i do it for a purpose. White people need to wake the fuck up. They need to realize that their life has been drastically different from people of color in this country, especially African-Americans, and work to better society for all and not the few. They need to stop believing the myths force fed in schools, by corporations, by politicians and in the media, the feel good bullshit narrative about this shining light upon a hill. It's a grand premise, this country, but for the most part we have failed spectacularly. 

There has never been any secret about my disdain for the fuzz around here. I also understand that the color of my skin has played a large part in keeping me alive and out of jail. There have been run-ins but my run-ins didn't end with me on the ground and four officers standing on top of me. The biggest advantage i had in the slinging years? the color of my skin. The reason i cut the dreads? it gave the cops a reason. Cutting off hair is easy, changing the color of your skin is not. Fact is neither should be probable cause to stop and search. 

So what does one do? Start local. Not long ago the Breadwinner's best friend, an Ethiopian immigrant who came to the US when she was 18 due to the political persecution her family faced, was stopped by a cop in my so-called "progressive and inclusive" burb. She was at a light near the police station, the fuzz was in his car in the parking lot, on seeing her he suddenly pulled out and turned on his lights pulling her over. His reason was complete and utter bullshit, the usual vehicle matched a description. She was nervous and couldn't find her registration. She said the guy was rude and abrupt and then issued her a ticket for $250 due to her not having the registration in the car. She had actually just renewed it and forgot to put in the glove box but that didn't matter to Officer Shithead. I have the distinct feeling had she been white she would have gotten a warning or most likely not been stopped at all. He explained that she could contest it and when she looked into it that meant at the least it would cost her $60 and the time to go to traffic court. There was no reason to stop her. His bullshit about the "fit the description" wasn't about the car it was about the color of her skin. The truly sad part, when it first happened a few months back and i asked for some info on the matter, the woman told me it didn't matter, that's just how it is. The Breadwinner has a pretty diverse pool of employees. Gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, doesn't matter the color of their skin or anything else, as long as they can do the job it's cool. As i'm a known weed-head a few of the black guys who work there and i have a good time at picnics and parties and such. Recently a few told me that they do their best to avoid driving through my "progressive and inclusive" burb because the fuzz are known to pull over black males for no reason at all, it's common knowledge they said. I'm pissed. 

We'll now find out if the pen is mightier than the sword. The letter written to the department stated the incident involving the Breadwinner's bestie. I didn't divulge names or even the sex of the driver. It goes back to my healthy paranoia. I stated that i was a bit disgusted and appalled at the behavior of the officer and asked if racial profiling was a regular thing in the department? I explained that last time i checked it was my tax money that funded their shiny cars and fancy toys and new shooting range and that as a citizen i should have a very large say in how things worked and racial profiling should not be part of it. In fact i demand it not be a part of it. I mentioned my involvement with the case against the package thief a few years back. How i dragged my ass to court four times (not so much to help their case but look out for my neighborhood) and how the assistant DA thanked me and stated most witnesses in cases like this don't even bother to show up, that i aided in getting them their coveted conviction. I understand this may bring me some extra attention but then again the Breadwinner owns a business in this community and our local pols love the business owner types. Besides i just got a medical card so they can't even get me for that. That said i have to start somewhere, i feel the need to do something, this systemic violence and oppression needs to stop, now. So they'll be letters. They'll be a tall man at council meetings asking uncomfortable questions. I have sons to teach and set and example for. Sometimes you have to stand up for things. That compassion, empathy, kindness, humanity, is not doled out based on the color of ones skin. If we don't stand together it just makes it that much easier for the oppressors and the racists to knock us apart. Equal rights and justice. 


savannah said...

You are absolutely correct! It is long past the time for white people to educate their own. I've lived through far too many demonstrations and events to be the one, again, to help white people understand the difference in our realities. Thank you for making sure your sons see what allies, what human beings, are supposed to do for themselves and their community.

These are scary and fucked up times, Kono, but you give me hope. xo

Kono said...

Savannah- I appreciate the comment and I'm trying to do whatever i can to make sure the boyos understand the world they live in, to understand injustice to be compassionate and empathetic and to be humanists.

White people don't want to look the truth because it messes up the cozy bubble a lot of them live in, regardless of their economic status, i've seen it across the board, it's disturbing and disgusting and i get a lot of strange and sometimes angry responses and looks (from white people) when i debate the topic, maybe i have a different perspective because i've been harassed by cops and was once dubbed a racial slur because of who my friends were, but that's a post for another time. Thanks again for reading and much love to you and your family.

kid said...

to: white person. what: perfectly mentioned above is Chris Hedges. go read him if you haven’t; reread him if you have. Death Of The Liberal Class, and American Fascists are superb starters - as are any of his several bibliographies.